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Volume 15, Issue 3 April
The "Ranging Shot" Is A Regular Column In The IHMSA News
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Todd Spotti

     Just got back from the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Three days of fatigue, dehydration, seeing long-time industry friends, making new friends, and seeing lots and lots of really interesting, new things. As you can tell, itís a love/hate thing that I have with the Show. Anyway, hereís just a very few of the items that I found to be particularly interesting. I hope that during the course of the year Iíll be able to cover these items and others in more detail.

     The absolute number one item of interest that everyone was talking about was the new Mach 2 seventeen caliber rimfire cartridge. As you well know, Hornady and CCI developed the 17 HMR cartridge, which was based on the 22 Winchester Magnum case. This year the Hornady/CCI team has taken the concept to its next logical step and has developed a 17 caliber cartridge based on the 22 Long Rifle case (a CCI Stinger case to be exact).

     The new cartridge is just as cute as a bug but is as deadly as an angry pit bull. The 17 grain bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2100 fps and Iíve seen a movie of it completely blowing up a small pumpkin. However, hereís the thing that really gets my interest. Itís really, really accurate. How accurate? How about half inch groups at 100 yards? Price of the Hornady/CCI ammo hasnít been fixed yet, but informed speculation by insiders is tagging it at around $6 for a box of 50. (Note: just noticed that one of the big catalog outfits is apparently taking advanced orders already and they are quoting $5.53 a box).

"The Mach 2 is based on the 22 Long Rifle"

     As of this date (2/16/04) Anschutz, Ruger, Marlin, Savage, and Thompson Center are highly probable candidates for providing firearms for the new cartridge. These companies have either already committed to the cartridge or were actively engaged in intense technical discussions with Hornady and CCI at the Show.

     Interestingly, Winchester is undecided whether the Mach 2 has a big enough place in the market next to the 17 HMR and so appears to be willing to sit on the sidelines for the moment to see how things will shake out. In my opinion, unless there are unresolved or unknown technical problems with the new ammo that still needs to be fixed, Winchester is going to be missing a very large boat just as they did with the 17 HMR.

     Eley, however, doesnít have any hesitation about the Mach 2. They are totally committed to producing ammo. In fact, they are so committed to the to the new cartridge that they have purchased new production machinery to handle the expected volume. The new Eley ammo will be using that companyís advanced priming compound.

     One last point of information. Donít immediately run out to your local sporting goods store or start calling your favorite catalog place and try to buy a gun or ammunition. Hornady, CCI, and Eley are all saying they wonít have ammo in the pipeline until late summer or early fall. I also got the sense that the firearms manufacturers wonít be selling guns before the ammo is readily available anyway. Sources tell me they donít want to be caught in a similar situation as with the early days of the 17 HMR where there were guns on the market but hardly any ammunition.

     Speaking of Hornady, theyíve added a new XPT bullet to the 17 HMR. The XTP will provide a more controlled expansion rate on tough targets than the current VMAX bullet, which is optimized for violent expansion on soft targets. Hornady has also got a very, very nice compact electronic scale with a capacity of 350 grains that is absolutely perfect for reloading out at the range. It even comes in a plastic carrying case and is equipped with a wind cover over the weighing platform. A couple of AAA batteries supply the power. For the bench at home thereís also a new electronic 1000 grain scale.

"Leupold's lens system on the new VXIII line approaches the theoritical limits of light transmission."

     Leupold has a new improved replacement for itís very popular Vari-X III line of scopes. The new series is called the VX-III. One of the primary features of the new scopes is that they use a new lens coating methodology that they call an "Index Matched Lens System".

     This is an extension of Leupoldís company philosophy of "light management". In essence, the coatings on each lens in the scope are optimized to the particular optical glass that theyíre applied to in a coordinated fashion to ensure the maximum light transmission. In other words, not all the lenses are made with the same glass or have the same coatings but will all work together as a team to produce the best image. As a result of this system optimization approach, light transmission has reached 98% in some of the VX-III scopes. This is very, very close to what the healthy human eye can detect.

     Additionally, all models will have a fast focus eyepiece, a side focus parallax resolution knob on variable scopes of 4.5X - 14X and higher (except the EFR), and will have quarter minute clicks that are finger adjustable versus the old quarter in the slot friction type adjustments. For those who prefer, illuminated reticule models in the new line up are available as well.

     Also of particular interest from Leupold is a Golden Ring 15-30 Compact spotting scope. This is really kind of a mid size rather than a mini compact scope. Even so, itís only 11 inches long and has all of the Leupold quality features like multicoating, waterproofing, etc. Had a chance to look through it and was surprised at what a nice image I was getting from the 50 mm lens. Thereís also a very compact 40 mm version that fits right into the palm of your hand. Very nice for taking on a hunt.

     Hodgdon has really come up with a great idea. Itís basically a sampler pack consisting of four, quarter pound containers of four different Hodgdon powders falling within a in a general burning range. Theyíre called "Xperimenter Packs". There are a number of different sampler packs available i.e. fast, medium, and slower burning. Right now, theyíre available in rifle powders only. This is a great idea for the reloader who wants to try a number of different powders when working up a load. So rather than having to buy four, one pound cans, you can just buy a sampler pack for the rough cost of a single pound of powder. Itís one of those immensely logical ideas where you say, "Why didnít someone do it before?" Good going Hodgdon!

"A four inch version of the big 500 Smith is available for 2004."

     Smith & Wessonís 500 Magnum revolver is selling hand over fist and sales of brass, bullets, etc. for the new cartridge are doing equally as well. Starline brass even has a backlog of orders for the cases. (Whoís going to be the first in IHMSA to neck it down to 6.5mm?) Both Hornady and CCI have new hollow point and flat point bullets for the big magnum. Believe it or not, a four inch version the big Smith will be made available this year. There will be a number of muzzle break options available. The new gun is geared towards professional guides, backpackers, and hunters in dangerous bear country.

     For those interested in a light weight self defense gun for the house, take a look at the new Model 325PD. Itís a slick 21 ounce, 2.5 inch barreled, scandium and titanium alloy revolver chambered in 45 ACP. It carries a lot of punch in a small, light weight package and is easy to handle.

     Nikon has some interesting items. One is a zoom version of the 50mm Action binoculars that I reviewed several months ago. The new binoculars are 10-22X50mmís, which is more than enough power for bright, wide angle stereo viewing of the 200 meter ram targets. Like the others, the new binoculars are multicoated and have the same BaK4 high index prisms.

     know a lot of silhouette shooters like to varmint hunt where judging distances can really be tricky. Nikonís new Laser 800 rangefinder is just the ticket for those applications and for checking to see whether your silhouette targets are set out at the proper distance on the range. The new unit uses all digital processing rather than analog, which results highly precise results (+ -18 inches at 800 yards). Itís also fully waterproofed. When checking it out at the Show, I lined it up on a thin electrical cord hanging down from the ceiling some distance away. The Laser 800 had no problem hitting it with its beam and calculating the distance. That cord couldnít have been more than a half inch wide. Thatís what digital processing can do for you. Impressive.

     Thereís also a new Nikon armored compact 60mm 16-48 spotting scope. This is a nice rubber armored straight through design. Itís fully waterproofed, with full multicoating, and phase corrected prisms. Itís also got a built in peep sight and is available with a compact tripod and a carrying case.

"The new RCBS powder dispenser is much faster than the old model."

     RCBS has upgraded its electronic powder dispenser/electronic scale unit. The scale (which can be purchased separately) does away with the infrared interface and now plugs directly into the side of the dispenser. The new combination has a much cleaner design and in my opinion takes up less space on the bench. It also has lots more memory so that more of your loads can be stored in the machine. Itís easier to recall stored loads as well.

     The thing I liked best is the fact that the dispensing process is much faster than with the old model. For experimenting reloaders like us where we want to check out say a new powder and want to load five rounds with 13.5, 14.5, 15.5 grains each etc., this is a very useful tool which can speed up the whole process by quite a bit.

"Some Alpen scopes are available with a carrying case and window mount."

     New comer Alpen whose 80mm spotting scopes have made an impressive impact with their quality performance at good prices is taking a big jump into rifle scopes. The new Apex line represents their top end products. Silhouette shooters should definitely be interested in their 6-24. The objective lens on these scopes is a huge 50mmís. These are also fully multicoated, have target turret 1/4 minute adjustments and have 3 inch eye relief.

     There are also two new waterproof rubber armored spotting scopes. One is a 50mm and the other a 60mm. Not many 50mm spotting scopes are waterproofed. The 50 sports a 15-30 eyepiece and the 60mm a 18-36. By the way, their familiar 80mm spotter has been refined with some styling changes and an increase in eye relief. As an option, you can also get a kit, which includes a hard sided case and a window mount.

"This is a much improved design. For a little more, you can get one of these beauties with a lube heater"

     Lyman introduced a very nifty new lubricator/sizer. This is a completely new design that uses a much improved, heavier linkage and a longer handle with a large knob on the end for first class leverage. The machine also has a much thicker base than the old unit. For a little more, you can get one of these beauties with a lube heater. The heater unit is a short rod with an attached electrical cord that fits into a recess in the thick base. This really looks like a slick machine for those of you who bullet cast. Other new things of interest to silhouette shooters is a very nice one piece electronic powder dispensing system, an updated version of their classic reloading manual, and a very functional ball micrometer for measuring case neck thickness.

     How would you like to buy a technically sophisticated 90mm spotting scope for only $300 or a 125mm scope for $450? Impossible you say. Well, you can. Weaver absolutely blew me away with its new ETX models. As I previously reported some time ago ATK sold its optical business (Weaver, Simmons, & Redfield) to Meade Corp., a manufacturer of astronomical telescopes. Evidently Meade has transferred some of its technology over to Weaver and that has resulted in the ETX. This scope is essentially an astronomical type that appears to have been adapted for spotting. The objective lenses are absolutely huge and are of a very sophisticated design. The basic scope design itself is a classic astronomical folded optics type, which gives you a lot of focal length in a very compact package. This is a spotting scope for the very serious long range shooter. Know anyone like that? Weaver says you can read license plates with it a half mile away. Believe me, youíll have no problem seeing 22 rimfire holes at 200 meters with this baby, or even 17 caliber holes for that matter.

     If you load pistol cartridges on a progressive machine Redding Reloading has packaged their competition seater and profile crimping dies with a titanium carbide sizing die in a single package geared just towards you. No expander die is included in the set as almost all progressive machines expand case mouths at the powder dispensing position. They also have an new E-Z Feed shell holder that is tapered to allow easier case insertion. Itís also knurled around the outside for a better grip. If youíve ever done any amount of case trimming youíll appreciate the fact that theyíve added an adapter to attach a cordless screwdriver to their case trimmer. Should make trimming a lot faster. I also see that theyíve acquired one of my favorite products - Imperial Sizing Wax. If youíve got to do some serious case reforming, this is the stuff you want to use for a case lube.

     Stoney Point is one of those smaller companies in the industry that regularly comes out with very innovative precision reloading and cleaning products. Anyone who doesnít own one of their universal bore guides is missing an extremely valuable tool in their cleaning caddy.

     This year they have a very nice bore guide for 22 rimfire bolt actions that gets around the ejector finger that usually prevents other guides from being used. They also have a new 22 rimfire gauge that can be used for both long rifle and magnum cartridges. It probably can be used for the Mach 2 cartridge as well.

"Brownells range bags can be had in both classy and utilitarian versions  Both are very versitile."

     The Brownells catalog has got to be one of the most fun catalogs in the world for a shooter to thumb through. It was almost as much fun to visit their booth at the show and see all of the new stuff. One group of items that impressed me was their new line of Signature gun bags. The suede leather bag was especially classy and not that expensive at all. The CORDURA model is made with 1000 denier material while the competition uses 900 denier. Both models have all kinds of pockets and places to tuck things and both have corrugated hard plastic inserts on the bottom to insure a buckle free carry. The bags also have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

     Shooters Choice has put their FP-10 lubricant in a aerosol container. This is a super gun oil that works between -76 degrees up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. They also have a new degreaser that wonít harm plastic parts, polymer frames, grips etc. While not a new product, their Extreme Clean ammonia free bore cleaner, wonít eat up your bronze bore brushes and will do a good job of getting all the lead and copper out. I just squirt it right down the barrel from the aerosol can.

  According to the Internet chatter from the rimfire benchrest crowd, Lapua has upgraded the priming compound in Midas M and L and the new ammo is producing phenomenal results. Lapuaís US importer, Kaltron Pettibone couldnít confirm that, but did report that they are having a very difficult time keeping new lots of that ammo in stock due to a huge demand.

     Iosso, the maker of the only paste type bore cleaner on the market has upgraded its bore brushes again. The "Eliminator" blue nylon type bristles are even thicker than before for better scrubbing action and unlike most brushes, the bristles go all of the way to the very top of the spindle to provide more bristles per brush. More bristles = better cleaning. Ammonia based cleaning solvents wonít eat up these brushes either.

     Lastly, I had the privilege of attending a very nice luncheon given by Smith & Wesson on behalf of "Shooting for Women" magazine". Itís not as well known as it should be, but Smith & Wesson is a major supporter of many, many womenís shooting activities as well as womenís shooting organizations such as The Texas Divas. Iíll tell you The Divas make the NRA look like wimps when it comes to supporting the Second Amendment. By the way, I had a look at the Shooting for Women magazine and itís a high quality, very professional publication. Any woman can get a subscription to the magazine free, courtesy of Smith & Wesson. Just go to ( to subscribe.

     I think Smith & Wesson and the ladies of Shooting for Women are doing a terrific job of educating women about firearms and the safe, responsible culture that 99% of American gun owners represent. It would really be great if other manufacturers in the industry and other shooting organizations emulated Smith & Wessonís efforts to bring more women into the firearms world. If that could happen, things in Washington would really change fast.

"Rocky "Charger" boots will keep your feet toasty all day long"

     I saw something really hot at the booth for Rocky Shoes and Boots. Theyíve got a new line of boots and clothing, which is heated with a battery pack. Itís called "WarmGear". The line consists of "Charger" boots, a vest type jacket, and pants. The boots in particular intrigued me. A rechargeable battery about the size of a pack of cigarettes clips on to a pair of terminals on the side of the boot. The warming elements are embedded in the sole. As I understand the principle, you attach the battery when your feet start to get cold. When things warm up, you unclip the battery, as the boot will now retain that heat for a long period of time (as long as all day). If things start getting cold again, just clip the battery back on.

     The clips are designed so the battery isnít going to fall off or get brushed off during strenuous activity. This is really a great idea as I have been in situations when my feet got so cold I felt like I was dragging around a couple of blocks of ice. The sole of the boot is a lightweight type and the upper features Rockyís waterproof Scent IQ fabric liner, which eliminates human odor. Remember those critters can smell you coming even before they see you. The Charger is available in both leather and Mossy Oak 1000 denier CORDURA. Anyone who works or plays outdoors in cold weather country should definitely look into these boots.

Good luck and good shooting. Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading and bullet casting, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.